Today is the centenary of the birth of my father, Dennis Allman.
Lee v Asher’s – saved in the nick of time
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
How easily it could have gone the other way!
A race against time
This post is made firstly to the glory of God and in thanks to Him, and secondly in loving thanks to John F. Larkin QC, presently and at all relevant times the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, for his willing instrumentality, skilful and timely, in what I believe to have been a gracious plan of God’s.
By just one day, Mr Larkin had avoided missing a deadline he mightn’t have known at the time that he was racing to meet. This I see as an example of divine providence. How close we came to witnessing more cruel rejoicing last Wednesday, that the Supreme Court too had “found Ashers guilty of sexual orientation discrimination”. And how few are they who have yet learnt how close we came to this.
The peril posed by Lee v Ashers
Last Tuesday, i.e. a week ago, my country and the whole world were tottering on the brink of a precipice. The end of British liberal democracy and secularism as we know them were at hand, portending a pogrom against dissident thought criminals, in the wake of liberal democracy’s demise, that would be reminiscent of certain of the Tudors. Does that hyperbole sound too melodramatic to you? Then please educate yourself, about all that was at stake in Lee v Ashers, which could easily have gone the other way, enslaving us all for decades to come. If John Larkin had been just one day behind with his work at the crucial time, all would have been lost.
The victory for freedom that so nearly didn’t happen
On Wednesday, praise God, my prayers were answered, when the news broke of a reprieve, in the form of refreshingly common-sense judgment of the UK Supreme Court. The court stepped back from the edge of the metaphorical cliff off which the following illiberal morons employed as judges for lavish pay had wished civilisation to jump. I name them here, to shame them. All of them richly deserve redundancy notices before they can do any further damage: District Judge Brownlie (in Belfast County Court), and Morgan LCJ, Weatherup LJ and Weir LJ (in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal).
The Supreme Court decided that those of us who opposed gay marriage conscientiously could not be punished after all for refusing to assist physically in the verbal or graphic support of gay marriage. And much more besides. Those who mentally oppose any cause, surely cannot now be made verbally to support it, by the abuse of discrimination law to infringe the freedom from forced speech. Basically, the Supreme Court snatched the freedom from forced speech most of us had thought was an inalienable right by now, from the jaws of oblivion, whither Ms Browlie and their lordships had cast that freedom, in their folly and shame.
But there was something else. Something that could all-too-easily have become a wrong that even the Supreme Court found itself unable to right.
Everybody had known for several years that Asher’s had discriminated against the political opinion Mr Lee had wanted them to express on a cake, support for “gay marriage”. What nobody sane believed was the gratuitous insult heaped on top of the injury by the dishonourable judges so far, that this refusal of forced speech had amounted to discrimination against the bully on the grounds of his sexual orientation. The villains who’d tried the first instance case and the appeal had gone out their way to be that vindictive. The gaystapo, notoriously intolerant of any opinion but their own, had gloated that Ashers had been “found guilty” of anti-gay discrimination. They had called them “bigots”, i.e. the sort of people who are intolerant of any opinion but their own.
Perfocal – the clowns who bit their own saviours!
There was a glorious moment of light – nay comic – relief soon after the judgment was handed down. The first beneficiary to claim the benefit of this simply glorious liberalisation, the first to use this reaffirmed basic freedom from forced speech, was the photography firm Perfocal, which promptly breached its contract with the Christian Institute to shoot and to hand over some propaganda shapshots outside the court in the aftermath of the salvation of the very right that Perfocal was thus exercising, a salvation wrought that day by Perfocal’s jilted customer, whom Perfocal paradoxically no-platformed for their having defended the very right to no-platform people with whom one disagrees that Perfocal was exercising itself!
But back to the big story …
A race against time the winner may not even known he was in!
Eponymously “supreme” or not, it was by no means certain that the so-called Supreme Court would believe it had the authority necessary to rekindle the smouldering wick of freedom, which Ms Brownlie had tried out to snuff out, and upon which their three lordships in the NI CA had since pissed. This desperate attempt to extinguish the flame of freedom involved a feat of sophistry that makes Ignatius Loyala’s so-called “Society of Jesus” look straightforward country folk in comparison. The NI CA delivered a perverse, wicked and rambling judgment of which even legal scholars can make neither head nor tail to this day, and which Lady Hale confirmed to us had been the complete load of bollocks we’d thought it was all along.
The “Supreme” Court needed a loophole, if it wasn’t to find itself impotent to speak the words it wanted to, “Peace! Be still!”, into the tumult of the Cake Wars. Lord Mance was subcontracted to find the loophole that could save civilisation. His scavenging for a straw of hope uncovered a week’s bureaucratic delay, between the counter-intuitive judgment of the NI CA and the sealing of the order giving effect to that judgment.
Lord Mance discovered (or invented, more like) the boring, technical loophole that enabled Lady Hale to utter the televised soundbites that she had saved liberal democracy in the nick of time herself. Saint John Larkin (as I now call him) had managed to cry foul (in the sort of nitpickingly complicated way that lawyers sometimes are forced to state the bleedin’ obvious) on Friday 28th October 2016. Hence my exclamation, “What a difference a day makes!”
But for this happy discovery of a loophole on Lord Mance’s part, last Wednesday would have been the day that freedom from forced speech died.
If John Larkin hadn’t got that paperwork to the court on Friday 28th – if the paperwork had instead been delivered the following Monday 31st, or shoved through the letter-box on the Saturday for that matter – the gaystapo would have been dancing in the streets again last Wednesday, still gloating that innocent Ashers had been “found guilty” of direct sexual orientation discrimination against Mr Lee. Ashers and the rest of us, would now be their slaves and the prisoners for the foreseeable future, as Ms Brownlie and the NICA three had planned.
What a difference a day made! Thank you God, and well done John Larkin.
And well done Lord Mance too. The first half of the judgment for which Lady Hale gets the glory in the media was a piece of cake (as well as a peace, of cake). I reckon I could almost have written her bit myself, though not as posh as she did obviously. The really clever part of the judgment was your second half, m’lord, from paragraph 63 onwards. You saved the day, not to say the country and civilisation. Your speech was up to Lord Denning’s standard, in the art of sophistry deployed in the service of common sense and the common man for a change, to make sure (as Denning used to like to) that the little fellow being picked on got protection from the powerful bully. You deserve credit for that. Thank you.
But God deserves, and gets, the glory. John Larkin got his “reference” under paragraph 33 in before the order of the CA was sealed. It was this crucial timing that provided the loophole that Lord Mance “found” (or invented) that enabled Lady Hale to look like a goodie for a change. Thank heaven for huge mercies!
Two other authors’ more scholarly blog posts about the legal technicalities:
Earlier posts of mine on the topic of Lee v Ashers: